FAFSA veteran education benefits are available in addition to what is offered via GI Bill Benefits. Some types of financial aid for veterans via FAFSA is need-based, while other forms require no financial qualification. It’s easy to forget that the GI Bill isn’t your only college payment option; some veterans have a long-term plan for their education that isn’t fully covered by the GI Bill and need to know their options for when GI Bill funds are all used up.
Other veterans may wish to save their GI Bill benefits for a different type of schooling, hoping to use other financial aid for their undergraduate program and save the GI Bill for post-graduate studies instead. Whatever choices you are faced with in paying for your education, you should know what else is available.
What Is FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is a form all prospective college students should fill out to determine which financial aid packages they might be eligible for. FAFSA is a program administered by the federal government, with an official website that allows users to create an account and begin the process.
What Kind Of Educational Assistance Is Available Via FAFSA?
There are many different types of educational financial aid for veterans and non-veterans alike. They include, but are not limited to:
- Non-repayable grants such as the Pell Grant
- Subsidized and unsubsidized loans
- Federal work-study
FAFSA education funds cannot exceed the actual cost of your schooling-there is no “overage” paid to the student once education expenses are covered. FAFSA aid is applied for once you have chosen a college you want to attend, and that college’s deadlines and other requirements will apply in addition to your FAFSA guidelines and deadline requirements.
Are There Deadlines For Filling Out FAFSA Paperwork?
There are as many as THREE deadlines for turning in FAFSA paperwork: a federal deadline, a state deadline, and a school deadline. These may be three separate dates depending on which state you’re applying to attend college in. You will need to check at the FAFSA official site to see what the deadlines are for the year you wish to attend.
Do Military Benefits Affect The Amount of FAFSA Money I May Be Eligible To Receive?
Yes and no. Your GI Bill benefits (BAH, tuition payments, book stipend, etc.) do not count against you as they are considered entitlements. That is true for both need-based loans and need-based grants. Combat Zone pay is also NOT counted against you except the portion that is taxable where commissioned officers exceed the non-taxable amount. Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) is counted against you.
When FAFSA calculates the amount of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), GI Bill benefits will not affect that calculation. However, other types of VA education assistance such as the Work/Study Allowance does count against the EFC. So does any VA Disability, Dependency & Indemnity Compensation you might receive. If it is taxable, it may count against your EFC.
I Went To The VA Official Site And Filled Out VONAPP. Do I Still Need To Fill Out A FAFSA Form?
Yes. The Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) is not associated with FAFSA and does not submit FAFSA paperwork. VONAPP is for education benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
What Documents Will I Need To Fill Out FAFSA Paperwork?
- Social Security number
- Dependent children’s Social Security numbers if applying under the parent’s GI Bill
- Driver’s license number
- Federal tax returns including IRS W-2s, 1040 forms, etc.
- Documentation of untaxed income, such as child support, interest payments, and veterans non-education benefits
- Savings and checking account balances; information on stocks and bonds, real estate, any business assets, etc.
Am I Required To Pass My Classes To Receive FAFSA Financial Aid?
Yes. Much like the GI Bill, satisfactory academic progress is a requirement. That includes “timely completion” rules as well as GPA standards. In general, you may be required to carry a minimum 2.0 GPA, but the standards may vary depending on your loan, grant, or work-study program. Discuss these requirements with your college admissions counselor to see what will apply at your institution.
What Specific Grants And Loans Are Available Via A FAFSA Application?
Some of the most popular FAFSA grants and loans include the following:
- Subsidized Stafford Direct Loans are need-based student loans that charge no interest for students with at least half-time college attendance.
- Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are not need-based student loans, but the school determines how much you may borrow. Interest begins on these loans from the moment they are paid. These loans are “capitalized” which means if you wait to pay the interest, it will be added to the principal amount as the interest accrues on the loan.
- Perkins Loans are a federal, low-interest student loan for those with “exceptional financial need”. For these loans, the school acts as the lender.
- Pell Grants are for undergraduate students who do not have a degree. Financial need may determine the amount of the grant.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are need-based grants for up to $4,000 per year and paid in addition to Pell Grants for students with the greatest financial needs.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are available to the dependents of qualified service members. These grants are for dependent students who are not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant (due to issues with Expected Family Contributions) but who otherwise meet Pell Grant requirements and have a parent who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. Other requirements may also apply.
- TEACH Grants can offer up to $4,000 per year to students interested in becoming teachers. This grant has a service agreement as a condition of approval. Those receiving the TEACH grant agree to teach in a high-need area, and/or at schools that serve low-income families.
Does My Credit Matter When Applying For Student Loans?
Depending on the nature of the student loan program you are interested in, there may be credit requirements for certain student loans that are not applicable to other programs. For example, one type of loan you can explore via FAFSA is the Direct Plus loan for graduate students.
This is a federal student loan for graduate students and professional students with a loan amount determined by the school and the amount of any other financial aid you may be receiving. One of the stipulations of being approved for this particular loan is, according to the FAFSA official site, that you do not have an “adverse credit history”. The application procedures for this particular loan may vary depending on the school, but the credit requirement is firm.
There Are Websites Offering To Help Me Complete My FAFSA Paperwork For A Fee. Do I Need To Pay A Third Party To Help Me?
FAFSA paperwork may be a bit time-consuming, but you do not need to pay a third party to help you navigate or complete these forms. They are designed to be filled out by students and/or family members and you can get more information and tips on filling out these forms at the FAFSA official site.
Can the military help me repay my student loans?
The Army, Navy, and Air Force all offer a Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). The total loan amount eligible for repayment varies among the services, and a borrower may need to meet other conditions. Only federal student loans are eligible.
Am I a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
This is question 50 on the FAFSA application. This is yes if you:
- Have engaged in active duty (including basic training) in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force or Coast Guard), or are a National Guard or Reserve enlistee who was called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies, and
- Were released under a condition other than dishonorable
Select no if you:
- Are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or
- Are currently an ROTC student, a cadet or midshipman at a service academy or
- Are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee activated only for state or training purposes, or
- Were engaged in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces but released under dishonorable conditions
Why is FAFSA Linked to the Military Draft?
If someone who is eligible for the draft, aka the Selective Service System, has not yet registered, they’re generally unable to get federal financial aid for higher education, including FAFSA. Any male person who is between the ages of 18 to 25 is required to register for the draft. Registering for the draft does NOT prioritize those who applied for FAFSA as the draft relies on a random lottery system. The last active military draft by lottery was 1973, during the Vietnam War.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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